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Key long-range facility goals at Northeastern State University advance with federal funds

Northeastern State University officials plan to use a portion of federal funds to expand HVAC system upgrades in campus buildings for the continued comfort and safety of students and employees.

Harold McMillen, NSU interim director of the physical plant, said with institutions of this size there is a constant need to maintain and upgrade HVAC systems. As part of officials’ long-range plans to address aging components in decades-old buildings, the university has allocated around $2.2 million of Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) dollars to making HVAC upgrades in priority buildings such as Leoser Hall, Fine Arts and Bagley Hall.

On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide federal relief to members of the American public negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One result of adopting that law was the creation of HEERF which provides relief funding to postsecondary institutions to mitigate the negative impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

McMillen said officials plan to use the HEERF funds to make upgrades focused on bringing in clean, fresh air that has been filtered, conditioned and dehumidified and improving circulation. To achieve this, NSU officials are considering adding a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS).

In selecting HVAC system project priorities, McMillen said buildings were evaluated based on their existing condition, occupant safety and impact to students.

“We try to be responsible stewards of public funds,” McMillen said. “Our number one question is always, how do we make the best impact that we can with the funding that we have to improve the lives of our students and faculty?”

He said improving the quality of air flow in buildings has been identified as part of a comprehensive strategy to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Increasing clean air flow in a building also has benefits beyond virus mitigation. McMillen said it also helps regulate the moisture level in a building, impacts smell and can add to the longevity of a building.

Work on upgrading HVAC systems has already begun. Mechanical engineers prepared design and bidding documents last semester. Staff is also conscientious of the disruption projects can have on existing building use and are working collaboratively with various stakeholders to best minimize the impact and provide clear communication to all parties.

McMillen said to meet HEERF requirements all construction needs to be completed by summer 2023.

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